Baigan promoted to associate volleyball head coach

GREAT RIO VALLEY — Year-long move in the works comes into effect today as longtime volleyball assistant coach Vini Baigan is promoted to associate head coach of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley volleyball team.

Baigan was hired by the head coach Todd Lowery in May 2015 as the first assistant coach at UTRGV. Lowery first started talking about promoting his assistant during their third year as a duo, but Baigan’s immigration status delayed the move.

Now, the years of passion and knowledge Baigan brought to make the Vaqueros a success culminates as he begins this new role.

“I got my green card back in June, so that made it possible. Todd asked if I was interested, and I said yes,” Baigan said. “It’s more than just a title change, but it’s always exciting to see you being recognized. I feel like we’re at a point where we’re completely comfortable with each other. Honestly, I think it was meant to be because it was perfect timing.”

Baigan spent three seasons as an assistant at Park University, each becoming the most successful in the program’s history, and met Lowery while running the program at the institution’s legacy. University of Texas at Brownsville. In 2014, Baigan helped Park defeat Lowery and UTB in the NAIA National Championship Game to cap a 40-0 season. Soon after, Lowery convinced Baigan to join him at the UTRGV.

“I saw what he was doing with this university and how he contributed to the success of the program,” Lowery said. “He was helping with recruiting and they recruited quality athletes. I saw the way he interacted with the student-athletes and that he had a good knowledge of the game. Those were the things that first struck me. attracted to him.”

Lowery and Baigan admit to having very different personalities, but over the years they’ve built an incredible confidence that allows them to “be completely honest with each other and challenge each other without being offended.”

“His strengths are different from mine. I think that’s probably one of the biggest things that made me feel like we had the foundation for a good partnership,” Lowery said. “We learned from each other and how to push each other to become better coaches.”

Although apparently a natural volleyball coach, Baigan never expected to hold the position while playing the sport at Park. He has a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and a master’s degree in international business, and he was sure he would return to his home country of Brazil when his college career ended.

“It never crossed my mind to be a coach, even though volleyball has been a big part of my life since I was nine years old,” Baigan said. “But it was absolutely the right decision.”

Lowery said he could trust Baigan with any task and know he would complete it at the same level that Lowery would. Whether training or hitting the road recruiting, and especially when it comes to keeping the program budget in order with his love of spreadsheets, Baigan has shown he is a vital asset for the UTRGV.

Paulina Ramirez played for Lowery and Baigan from 2016 to 2019, then joined the staff as an assistant coach after graduation. She said the bond between them was obvious from the start.

“Todd never made Vini seem like he had less of a voice than he did. I always saw them as a team, so to me it’s no surprise that Vini became the associate head coach,” Ramirez said. “Todd needs Vini as much as Vini needs Todd. They have the perfect balance.”

Ramirez said what Baigan brings to the program is “unique.” One example is how he strengthens family dynamics with his passion for cooking. For part of Ramirez’s career, UTRGV would stay at an AirBNB instead of a hotel on road trips. Baigan did the shopping and prepared meals for the team while the student-athletes shared the helping and cleaning duties. Sitting around a table to share a home-cooked meal helped the team bond on another level.

Along with her delicious food and “crazy” truffles, Ramirez praised how Baigan can read and push her players, like he did with her. She called him simple, very competitive and very technical – all characteristics that make him an exceptional coach.

“He doesn’t care who you were before you come into this program. He treats everyone the same when you get here and he’s going to give everyone the same opportunities,” Ramirez said. “As a player, he would tell me my truths, and then he would say, ‘I can see your potential, but it will be up to you. And that was a lot of motivation. He’s really good at making people want to play not just for him, but for each other as well.

In order to continue to connect and inspire each new generation of student-athletes, Baigan is committed to learning and adapting for the best of the program.

“You always have to adapt,” Baigan said. “I feel like a lot of coaches think, ‘I’ve always done it this way and I’m not going to change that.’ But I’m open to listening to players because I was that kind of athlete. I didn’t believe there was one right way to play volleyball, so I feel like in life, there are so many different ways to do things and we have to be open to new ideas and new concepts.”

Baigan’s dedication to progress and the UTRGV program is why he earned his new position and why Lowery always knew he was the right person for the job.

“This decision is about Vini’s growth as a coach,” Lowery said. “Whenever a program has long-term success, there is consistency among the staff. Vini and I have been that consistency at UTRGV. Promoting him to associate head coach is is to recognize him for the work he has done, will do and what we have built.”

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